Science, just Science News

The news items in here are created by the SJS team. Any comments left in here are the sole responsibility of those making the comment and may not reflect the views of the SJS campaign or it's contributors.

March 27, 2006

Unknown group to take over school in city

James Reed
Education Correspondent (22 Mar 06)

THE director of education in Bradford claimed yesterday that the Government's decision to announce the replacement of a school with a city academy came "out of the blue."

He also confirmed the council had "never heard" of the British Edutrust Foundation, the group intending to sponsor the new academy.

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Your letters

Sunday March 26, 2006
The Observer,,1739800,00.html

In your front-page article, 'Academy backer named as new Blair "secret loan" source' (News, last week), you say Andrew Rosenfeld 'has funded one of Tony Blair's controversial city academies'.

This contributes to the erroneous impression that these 'contributors' have a greater role in the financing of academies than is the case.

In most instances, they contribute around 8 per cent, the rest being paid by the government. This I would put under the heading of a 'top-up' rather than 'backing or funding'.

Indeed, I am bemused by the prominence these donors receive, not just in the press, but in the running of the schools, as evidenced by the apparent influence of Sir Peter Vardy in the north east.

In any other undertaking, would a share of less than 10 per cent allow the holder to have a direct influence on policy?

Jonathan Cahill
London NW1

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New Homonid Skull found in Africa

Science, Just Science - News

New Homonid Skull found in Africa

A 250,000 year old skull found in Africa may show part of the transition between homo erectus and homo sapiens.

Original Press Release

Discussion at Panda's Thumb

Why the intelligent design lobby thanks God for Richard Dawkins

Science, Just Science - News

An interesting anti-Dawkins slant in the Guardian

Why the intelligent design lobby thanks God for Richard Dawkins

Anti-religious Darwinists are promulgating a false dichotomy between faith and science that gives succour to creationists

Madeleine Bunting
Monday March 27, 2006
The Guardian

On Wednesday evening, at a debate in Oxford, Richard Dawkins will be gathering the plaudits for his long and productive intellectual career. It is the 30th anniversary of his hugely influential book The Selfish Gene. A festschrift, How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think, has been published this month, with contributions from stars such as Philip Pullman.

A week ago it was the turn of the US philosopher Daniel Dennett, second only to Dawkins in the global ranking of contemporary Darwinians, to be similarly feted at a series of lectures and debates across the UK launching his book on religion, Breaking the Spell. The two make quite a team, each lavishing the other with generous praise as the philosopher Dennett brings to bear his discipline on the scientific findings of Dawkins.

The curious thing is that among those celebrating the prominence of these two Darwinians on both sides of the Atlantic is an unexpected constituency - the American creationist/intelligent-design lobby. Huh? Dawkins, in particular, has become their top pin-up.

continue reading here;,,1740391,00.html

March 25, 2006

And on the eighth day Blair created academies

The Daily Dose: British leaders continue to speak out against creationism

Following in the path of the Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams, leading Britons ratchet up the anti-creationist rhetoric

By Matt Donnelly
(March 23, 2006)

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A battle that is all of their own creation

A battle that is all of their own creation

Ron Ferguson (23 Mar 06)

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Thus run the first three verses of the Book of Genesis – part of the Hebrew scriptures that are foundational for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the King James Version, they are majestic and poetic lines – but are they science?

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Scots church leader joins row over teaching of creationism in schools

Scots church leader joins row over teaching of creationism in schools


THE leader of the Scottish Episcopal Church said yesterday that creationism should not be taught in schools and that a "false battleground" was pitting science against faith.

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Ministers under fire over academy plans

Ministers under fire over academy plans (24 Mar 06)

GOVERNMENT officials today came under fire for censoring documents on the creation of academies on Wearside.

Education chiefs are awaiting a Government decision on their joint-sponsored city academies at Pennywell as well as Hylton Red House and Castle View.
Sunderland's own vision – part of a £95million bid to create new schools across the city under Building Schools for the Future (BSF) – wants to see private firms invest up to £2million to co-run schools with the council, under its own rules.
It's the only proposal of its kind in the UK.
Last year, in documents obtained by the Echo under Freedom of Information, it emerged that Ministers had key concerns over Sunderland's flagship plans and its opposition to Sir Peter Vardy's Emmanuel Schools Foundation.
Now officials at the Department of Education have refused to make public swathes of correspondence on Sunderland's Building Schools for the Future and academies, outlining how education chiefs arrived at their decision.
Material exempt under the ban include mundane details of lunch appointments and train journeys from London to Sunderland.
Others, detailing emails between the Department for Education and Sunderland Council, Schools Secretary Lord Adonis and Council leader Bob Symonds, have been kept under wraps.
A spokesman said despite a "general public interest", officials needed "space to explore different options."
He added: "The impartiality may be undermined if advise is routinely made public and there is a risk that officials could come under political pressure."
Robert Oliver, Sunderland's Conservative education spokesman, said: "I am concerned that not enough information is getting out.
"The time to have a debate is when all the issues have come out. People, generally, are unsure. We need to have the facts."

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March 23, 2006

A battle that is all of their own creation

Science, Just Science - News

This article from the Glasgow Herald is by Ron Ferguson, a regular columnist and Church of Scotland minister.

A battle that is all of their own creation

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
A battle that is all of their own creation

Continue reading here:

March 10, 2006

Creationism to be taught on GCSE science syllabus

Science, Just Science - News

Now it's out in the open:

The Times March 10, 2006

Creationism to be taught on GCSE science syllabus

Exam board is accused of confusing pupils by including religion

AN EXAMINATIONS board is including references to “creationism” in a new GCSE science course for schools.

The OCR board admitted that a biology course due to be introduced in September encourages schools to consider alternative views to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Its new “Gateway to Science” curriculum asks pupils to examine how organisms become fossilised. It then asks teachers to “explain that the fossil record has been interpreted differently over time (eg creationist interpretation)”. OCR, one of the three main exam boards in England, said that the syllabus was intended to make students aware of scientific controversy. But critics accused the board of blurring the line between science and religious education by putting creationism into lessons alongside evolution.

read more;,,174-2078747,00.html

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TES Article

Science, Just Science - News

This TES article is related to the "Parliamentary Question" post below.

Blair Sells Kids' Brains To Car Dealer

Blair Sells Kids' Brains To Car Dealer

Although Britons might be just waking up to the idea that their army is firing faith based bullets at Iraqis, many have been concerned for some time that their children's education is being handed over to Blair's evangelical friends. This threat to British kids' brains can, indeed, be found in the Labour Manifesto. Page 37 contains the innocuous seeming...
"We strongly support the new Academies movement. Seventeen of these independent non-selective schools are now open within the state system; their results are improving sharply, and 50 more are in the pipeline. Within the existing allocation of resources our aim is that at least 200 Academies will be established by 2010 in communities where low aspirations and low performance are entrenched."
Now for those unfamiliar with Academies (or "City Academies" as they were originally called), they are an innovation of New Labour's education reforms and they work something like this. If you are an individual, charity or miscellaneous organisation with couple of million quid in your pocket, you can invest in a "failing" state school somewhere in urban Britain. In return for your, relatively, modest contribution the state will supply tens of millions of pounds to knock down the old school buildings and replace them with a state-of-the-art shiny new "Academy". You then get to choose which teachers to employ and which kids to teach. Crucially, unlike your state school neighbours, you won't be burdened with having to stick to the national curriculum and can use alternatives like the American import: Accelerated Christian Education (ACE).

Enter Peter Vardy, Christian fundamentalist former car dealer, educational entrepreneur and friend of Tony Blair. His Emmanuel Trust already runs several schools in the North of England and is just itching to get its hands on more "failing" schools and turn them into places where every teacher is a "full-time Christan worker". The people behind the Emmanuel Trust believe, for instance, that "homosexuality is against God's design" and that religious "truths" should be given equal weight alongside scientific fact.

[Read More]

March 09, 2006

Parliamentary answer on the science curriculum

Thanks to 'Blackshadow for this (

Creationism has no place in science lessons

On 27th February, Jacqui Smith answered a parliamentary question

tabled by MP Keith Vaz.

His question was: `To ask the Secretary of State for Education and
Skills what her policy is on the teaching of creationism as a
subject in schools; and if she will make a statement.'

In her reply, the minister said that pupils should "be taught

about "how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of
interpreting empirical evidence". Also, the biblical view of
creation can be taught in RE lessons, where pupils are taught to
consider opposing theories and come to their own, reasoned
conclusions. Therefore, although creationism and intelligent design
are not part of the national curriculum, they could be covered in
these contexts."

here for her full answer.

The BHA has written to DfES ministers Jacqui Smith and Lord Adonis

asking whether the Government really considers "that creationism
and `intelligent design' are examples of scientific theories based
on empirical evidence within the meaning of the national

The letter explains that this is the BHA's specific concern in Ms

Smith's written answer:

"Our specific concern is your interpretation of the phrase `how

scientific controversies can arise from different ways of
interpreting empirical evidence' in the national curriculum
programme of study for science at key stage 4. You say that
creationism and `intelligent design' "could be covered in these

"From discussions with science teachers, the BHA had understood that

the controversies covered under this section over evolution
specifically were only those with some claim to being genuinely
scientific, such as the discredited Lamarckian theory. We are
concerned, therefore, to hear the government endorsing the view of
religious extremists that, firstly, a scientific controversy to do
with creationism actually exists, and secondly that it could be
taught in a state-funded school."

For the full letter click

Andrew Copson, education officer at the BHA said, "It seems

inconceivable that the government should give even tacit approval to
the teaching of creationism as a scientific theory. That they should
approve its teaching within the national curriculum for science is

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March 07, 2006

The Hidden Dangers of Fundamentalism

A connection exists between disease outbreaks and extreme religious practice
By Jack Woodall

Religious fundamentalism is bad for your health. There are, of course, the ill effects suffered by suicide bombers and their innocent victims. Consider also the sarin gas attacks by the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) sect, which killed 12 people in the Tokyo subway in 1995, and sickened 1,000 more. (Yes, I know the media reported 5,000 casualties, but 80% of them were the "worried well" who sought hospital emergency departments because of contact with victims, or consequent anxiety attacks).

What concerns me, however, is infectious disease. Consider these case histories:

» The last outbreak of polio in Canada and the United States, in 1978–1979, was the result of travel from the Netherlands, where an outbreak was ongoing, to Canada by members of the Reformed Netherlands Congregation, a religious group that refused vaccinations.

» In Uganda in 1998, an outbreak of cholera killed 83, and the resurgence of the disease was blamed on members of a sect in Soono Parish who hid patients from medical patrols. The sect was called Red Cross (not to be confused with the international relief organization), a group that collects dead bodies in the belief that resurrection is imminent.

[Read More]

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Diet, habitat and DNA

Science, Just Science - News

The Guardian has evidence of recent human evolution.

Diet and habitat have caused recent tweaks in human DNA

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Tuesday March 7, 2006
The Guardian

Scientists have spotted signs of recent evolution in the human genetic code, suggesting that diet and changes in habitat have had a lasting effect on our make-up.

In one of the first detailed scans of the entire human genome, researchers discovered more than 700 tweaks to genes they believe have arisen in the past 5,000 to 10,000 years, a period of time that saw humans spread north from equatorial regions and develop agriculture as a means of securing food.

read more ;,,1725177,00.html

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March 04, 2006

Yes, genes can be selfish

Science, Just Science - News


The Times March 04, 2006


Yes, genes can be selfish

Review by Prof. Steven Pinker
To mark the 30th anniversary of Richard Dawkins’s book, OUP is to issue a collection of essays about his work. Here, professor of psychology at Harvard University, wonders if Dawkins’s big idea has not gone far enough
by Richard Dawkins,
OUP £14.99, 384pp;

US television talk-show host Jay Leno, interviewing a passer-by: How do you think Mount Rushmore was formed?
Passerby: Erosion?
Leno: Well, how do you think the rain knew to not only pick four presidents — but four of our greatest presidents? How did the rain know to put the beard on Lincoln and not on Jefferson?
Passerby: Oh, just luck, I guess.
Read more here;,,923-2066881,00.html

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March 03, 2006

Schools to teach 'Adam and Eve' theory

Science, Just Science - News

Fears that the education reforms will make it easier to teach creationism.

Schools to teach 'Adam and Eve' theory

By Marie Woolf, Political Editor

Published: 05 February 2006

MPs have expressed fears that the Government's education reforms could lead to children being taught a concept that contradicts Darwin's theory of evolution.

They have warned that "intelligent design", which suggests human beings were created by God rather than through natural selection, could become a mainstream subject in some schools.

MPs have written to Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, saying the increased control to be offered to sponsors of the new trust schools could lead to evangelical Christian bodies taking over the curriculum.

read more here;

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Geneticists trace original organism

Science, Just Science - News

How interesting is this?

Geneticists trace original organism

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Friday March 3, 2006
The Guardian

Geneticists have drawn up the most accurate tree of life yet and pinpointed what they believe to be the organism from which all other life on Earth evolved.

Scientists construct tree of life "maps" to show how different organisms evolved over millennia, and split into the myriad species that have emerged on Earth. But previous versions have been beset with uncertainties, not least because microbes near the bottom of the tree swap DNA, making them hard to classify.

The new tree uses genetics to work out for certain where on the tree different organisms should be. In creating it, the researchers were able to cast back to see what lay at the bottom of the evolutionary tree, an organism dubbed the "last universal common ancestor" from which all other life sprung.

Read more:,,1722531,00.html

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March 02, 2006

No Difference Between ID and Creationism

Science, Just Science - News

ID proponents are fond of saying that they are "not creationists". This article, which I picked up at Panda's Thumb, makes some interesting comparisons.


By Jason Rosenhouse

The Court’s decision in the recently completed trial Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board contains the following revealing passage:

A “hypothetical reasonable observer,” adult or child, who is “aware of the history and context of the community and forum” is also presumed to know that ID is a form of creationism. The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism.

With these two, blunt sentences, the Court managed to pierce an illusion crafted by the leading proponents of Intelligent Design (ID).

The illusion was that ID and creationism were fundamentally different things. Scientific creationism (SC), they claim, is inextricably linked to the creation story in Genesis. ID, by contrast, is a solid scientific theory resting upon a firm foundation of biological fact. And while theological inferences could certainly be drawn from it, such inferences are unrelated to the theory itself.

ID’s finest minds presented this argument to the Court, and the Court, confronted with unambiguous evidence to the contrary, laughed in their faces. There has been no end to the teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing in the ID community ever since. In light of this, let us determine once and for all whether it is the Court, or the ID proponents, who have it right.

Read more at;

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March 01, 2006

Vatican says teaching ID confuses pupils

Science, Just Science - News

Teaching intelligent design will confuse children, says Vatican

By Hilary Clarke in Rome
(Filed: 20/01/2006)

The theory of "intelligent design" is not science and teaching it in schools alongside Darwinian evolution only confuses pupils, the official Vatican newspaper has said.

Prof Fiorenzo Facchini, a specialist in evolutionary theory at the University of Bologna, argued in L'Osservatore Romano that "intelligent design" belonged to the realms of philosophy and religion but not science.

continue reading at:

Daily Telegraph

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